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Local man to be honored for drug prevention work

A local resident and Little League umpire is being honored for his contributions to youth drug use prevention at a Pennsylvania State University basketball game Saturday.

While reading an article about a fellow Little League umpire in 2017, Barry Rake was inspired to make an impact on the youth of Williamsport that would last longer than just six innings.

“I read an article about a gentleman in Ohio who’s son died of an overdose,” Rake said. “After the funeral, he decided to go home and do something proactive and that’s where he came up with the idea of printing water bottles with the ‘Too Smart to Start’ slogan. I thought, ‘Wow, somebody should do something like that out here in Lycoming County.’ And believe it or not, I’m some somebody.”

Rake’s mission was to educate the youth of Williamsport about the danger of drug use and to provide information to parents on drug use in children and teenagers to further keep his community healthy and safe.

He wasted no time in getting support from his community. He made calls to the county commissioners’ office, Judge Eric R. Linhardt, who was a district attorney at the time, as well as the West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission. They all communicated about the program for the youth that was happening in Chicago and decided it was a worthwhile program to emulate here in Lycoming County.

The initiative’s main focus is on children in their early teens because that is statistically the age where drug curiosity and experimentation begin, Rake said.

After securing a grant from the county commissioners that would allow for the purchase of ten thousand water bottles and bookmark inserts, Rake said that’s where the leg work of his drug prevention program began.

Looking at his itinerary this past year, it is clear to see that not only has his organization been busy, but successful as well.

Starting with the John Bower Basketball program at Liberty Arena, Rake and his volunteers made their presence felt in numerous spaces where youth congregate. He can be seen passing out his water bottles at Little League sign-ups, at Girl Scout and Boy Scout events and 5k races. He is particularly proud he was able to speak at church services as well as the Loyalsock and Williamsport Area school districts this past year.

“It doesn’t matter, we’ll go to any youth group or organization,” Rake said. “Any avenue we can travel to touch the lives of young people and adults, we’ll do it.”

His approach is simple: hand out water bottles printed with the “Too Smart to Start” logo for kids, while telling parents that the bookmark inside contains information for them.

“It’s a two-fold purpose we have here; not only to educate the youth to be “Too Smart to Start” but also to give the parents some helpful hints with talking to their kids about drugs, overdoses and alcohol as well,” Rake says.

Rake describes the reception he gets from the community for his efforts as “superb.”

Since his program has started, he’s handed out about 8,000 water bottles to young people all over Lycoming County and anticipates even more next year. Rake is looking to “expand to anything we can do to educate more young people about being too smart to start using drugs,” he said.

It seems that Rake can add another honor due to his efforts. The Recovery Center’s of America Community Difference Maker’s Program and Penn State Sports will be honoring Rake and his volunteers for their work in their community Saturday.

Rake is especially thankful for Judge Linhardt, West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission, the county commissioners, as well as all of his volunteers that made his efforts possible.

As for his purpose moving forward, Rake states it very simply.

“If we can save one kid, its worth every ounce of energy we put into it.”

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